In China, the death of several personalities reinforces suspicions about the real toll of Covid-19

As the epidemic flares up, the sincerity of the government is once again called into question.

It was on social networks that doubts first spread. These last weeks, China has lost various celebrities (actor, singer, footballer…) and the reasons given to explain their death are still very vague.

The death of Chu Lanlan last December ended up causing trouble among some internet users. The virtuoso died at the age of 40 in circumstances unexplained by those around her. His disappearance caused a wave of panic among some Chinese who immediately made a link between this event and the outbreak in China.

If the family confirmed the death by entrusting his sentence, it did not mention the circumstances of this premature death. The death of this figure of Peking opera follows other disappearances: the former footballer Wang Ruoji died a few days earlier at only 37 years old; director Wang Jingguang died when he was only in his 50s. The famous series actor Gong Jintang, 84, also disappeared, this time on New Year’s Day. Here again, Internet users quickly established a link with the wave of mortality which affects the oldest, much more fragile in the face of Covid 19. “Please, please treat the elderly better“Reacted Hu Yanfen, one of his former colleagues on the social network Weibo, reports the BBC .

And the list does not end there. China thus deplores the disappearance of the screenwriter Ni Zhen, the university professor Hu Fuming or the boss and renowned scientist Tang Weiguo, reports France Inter .

Sign of excess mortality

Are internet users right to worry? These deaths are part of a context of an epidemic outbreak since the end of the “zero covid” policy. And the Chinese, especially in the big cities, realize this.

They grasp the magnitude of the situation as the disease approaches them: “it’s the proximity that causes worry, when it’s so and so’s cousin or someone else’s neighbor who is sick and dies“, abounds Antoine Bondaz, researcher at the Foundation for Strategic Research. And hospitalizations are increasing, as evidenced by the saturation of hospitals, images of which circulate widely on social networks.

In addition to the overcrowding that can be seen in hospitals and crematoriums, there are also signs of excess mortality that are clues to this outbreak.“, he continues. The researcher cites among others the case of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. The Hong Kong press, taken up by various British media, reports the death of 20 members of the Academy in less than a month (that of December), against an annual death rate usually at 16.These are very reliable clues that indicate that something must be happening.“, he analyzes.

distorted figures

Beyond the circumstances of these disappearances, it is above all the concern they arouse that is revealing. “The Chinese know very well that we lie to them, that we underestimate“, explains Antoine Bondaz. “We obviously have an under-reporting of caseshe breathes, the numbers are absolutely ridiculous“. On Wednesday, January 4, China, for example, reported only 15 deaths linked to Covid-19, due to a change in methodology in his tally since December 7. This figure is puzzling when you know that France loses more than 70 patients a day in its hospitals every day because of the Covid.

“We believe that the current figures released by China under-represent the true impact of the disease in terms of hospital admissions, intensive care admissions and especially in terms of deaths”, had advanced the same day Michael Ryan, head of the WHO responsible for the management of health emergencies. “The Chinese state does not want to create panic among the population“, explains Antoine Bondaz.

Pessimistic scenario

And for him, the health deterioration is only in its infancy. “No one is aware of the extent of the consequences of the current situation“. If it is the large metropolises that are now massively affected by the virus (the vice-president of one of Shanghai’s main hospitals, Chen Erzhen, estimated that “the epidemic of Covid-19 may have affected 70% of the population [de Shanghai]“), it is the medium-sized towns and the countryside that will be affected in some time. The populations there are proportionally less vaccinated and the hospital system much less efficient… “The situation is likely to be extremely delicate because the virus does not stop at the borders of the provinces“recalls Antoine Bondaz.

Speculation is therefore rife on the networks. This resurgence of the epidemic is all the more difficult for the executive to manage as it comes after violent waves of protest last November. The draconian health policy had aroused great anger in the population. These revolts had notably led the executive to a brutal lifting of restrictions. The government now finds itself challenged to compose between its official discourse and the health reality, which is increasingly difficult to hide.

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